View from the Kepler Track
If you really want to see what my trip was like to New Zealand you have to click on one of the above pictures or the two video players on the bottom of this web page. The second one is about thirteen minutes long. The first movie is about four minutes long, and that is the music video portion of the first movie. I would really watch the thirteen minute video if I were you. These videos were from my camera, so they are not super sharp, but I am.
Also the actual trip portions that I had are on the navigation buttons above on the left. Besides that read on dude.
This is a description of the New Zealand trip I took in December 2005. It describes a slightly above average difficulty of hiking. Some people may find it too hard and some hardcore hikers too easy. Well this was a vacation, so I didn't push myself, as what is the point on not relaxing and not enjoying myself.
New Zealand is a long way away from Portland, Maine. My GPS says 9,645.50 miles away to the Iris Burn hut on the Kepler Track to be exact. So why did I decide to go to New Zealand? Well it was to get away from all of you! I wanted some warm weather, and since it was going to be December, and New Zealand is below the equator, the seasons are reversed. Awesome!
So how do you plan a trip on the other side of the world? Good question, and I have an answer. You just do it. I really wanted to do a bunch of hiking. (Or Tramping as the people from New Zealand say.)
I found this book at the bookstore from Lonely Planet about tramping. It is the best book I have seen so far on the subject for New Zealand, and you should get it. I then tried to come up with a game plan. The South Island has more mountains, so I wanted to concentrate most of my time there. I kepton seeing the Milford Track tramp. I decided against it as I was kind of tight on days. If I go again I will definitely do the Milford track though. I saw the Kepler Track and the Routeburn Track would fit my plans perfectly. Avalanche Peak in Arthur's Pass also caught my eye as a mountain I wanted to check out. Then the Tongariro Northern Circuit came to mind to do on the North Island, as Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies.) seemed like such a great symmetrical mountain to hike up. It has the look of a smaller Mount Fuji in Japan. The last part of the trip I was to end up in Auckland. For the last day I was was to take a ferry to Rangitoto Island to climb the 259 meter volcano for a half day hike.
Please note that when you want to do the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn tracks listed above, you have to make a reservation for the stays in the huts or tent sites (no tenting on Milford track) as early as possible. You can make those reservations here at the New Zealand DEC on line booking section. Those tracks are very popular, so keep this in mind for the dates you want to get. The earliest you can pick up your hut tickets is the day before you are to start the track, so try to be able to get to a DEC ranger station or office before it closes. Other tracks that are not one of the nine great walks I am not so sure about the procedures.
So my itinerary is starting to take shape. There are holes in it for travel time, other cultural attractions, and whatever I want to do on a whim. The Lonely Planet tramping book above is good for tramping, but left a holes for all other aspects. (Travel, accommodations, museums, etc.)
I got this Let's Go New Zealand adventure guide. It is probably an average guide, and I bet there are some other superior options you could find. I don't think this is even the newest version either from that company, so l look around.
I also got a free BBH pamphlet sent to me from New Zealand for before I left, so I could check out some hostel accommodations. I also checked out the YHA hostels too, which I stayed at a few times while in New Zealand. My plan was to stay at tramping huts while hiking, and hostels mostly when in towns or cities.
So now I need to get to and around the country. The first order of business was to make sure I had a passport. Check, I have a passport. If you are an United States citizen you do not need a visa to enter the country as you are from a visa free visitor (lower ledt hand corner of that website.) country. (Visiting up to three months.)
Now the thing they do not tell you is that you need to pay a $25.00 NZD airport international departure tax just before you leave New Zealand. Don't worry it is just a quick line to pay the tax, and you will pay it as the tax sticker is put on the back of your boarding pass.
So now I need to buy my airline ticket. This was my biggest expense at $1,447.20 USD with all taxes included from Portland, Maine to Auckland, New Zealand on Qantas Airlines. Not bad actually from my smaller airport way in the Northeast of the USA.
Then the next big decision was did I want to rent a car or take other forms of transportation. I actually wanted to be social, so taking buses and trains would be a better choice. I would lose out on some flexibility by not renting a car, but an added bonus was that the trains and buses were cheaper. So I found this train pass from Tranz Scenic. I bought the seven consecutive day pass, which at the time was $299.00 NZD. (They also sell a consectitive monthly pass.) This pass entitles you to a ferry boat trip to and from the North or South island. The reservation for the ferry has to be done a few days before you are to take the boat thru Tranz Scenic, even though Interislander is who you are going to be taking the ferry with. Just read the website dude.